Thanks for all the comments in the “Philosophy 2.0” post — they are really helping to give form to the sludge in my mind!
I think the credibility problem (raised in the comments) has less to do with the label “philosophy” and more to do with “academic” or “professional.” Generally, when I tell folks I am a philosopher, they are excited and interested and want to talk. But the last thing they want to hear about is anything connected in any way with most of what goes on at professional philosophy conferences – it is too technical, too abstract, and (let’s be honest) the practical consequences are nil. They want to talk about knowledge, value, truth, religion, etc., in ways that connect with their own lives, or their views of the world. That seems like a reasonable expectation!
This is in fact what I was trying to get at with “Philosophy 2.0” — philosophy that is more interactive with more people, and with the issues of general public interest. (I hope I needn’t add that I’m not talking about dumbed-down discussions, or discussions about silly pop culture crap; I’m talking about discussions that engage the philosophical interests of educated people who aren’t professional philosophers.) I have focused on the “local change” issues since, from what I see, it seems like that’s where the intellectual action is nowadays. The best and brightest are trying to wrap their minds around the consequences and possibilities of local change, and I think philosophers have something valuable to contribute. But I also think there should be more intelligent public discussion of more traditional philosophical issues as well.
My confusion was to think that the 1.0/2.0 distinction was content-based (traditional vs. new issues). It isn’t. It has to do with interactivity, stupid me!
So here’s how I should have made the 1.0/2.0 distinction. Philosophy 1.0 is professional, academic philosophy as it is currently being practiced (for the most part). It is largely unengaged with the concerns and interests of intelligent, reflective people who aren’t professional philosophers. Philosophy 2.0 is the attempt to join the public discussion of issues the concern intelligent, reflective people. It needs to be informed by new developments in economics, technology, science, etc., and respond with the questions, methods, and insights from its own disciplinary perspective.
Philosophy’s methodological insights are impressive. Most people when they study philosophy don’t also try to practice each philosophy. We know at least one strong counter example ;).
Excellent, Huenemann. You’ve come to the conclusion that it is not a content issue, it is an interactive issue. While I think we both already try to be 2.0 in our teaching (though I am sure I do not always succeed, and sometimes my classes end up 1.0), I wonder what other concrete steps we could take to make our teaching and program more 2. 0?
I’ve been talking to Huenemann for a while about building a particular form of interactive publishing that promotes philosophical engagement.
There are a huge number of free educational tools that could be utilized. I’ve been thinking of building a “lens” off of http://cnx.org/. I should have some time freed up in a few months. (i’m sure it looks like I’ve got too much time on my hands even now!)
By the way — there is an interesting interview with some prominent Brit philosophers touching on this question and related ones:
Here is a related question:
The Cogito link mentioned that, for Aristotle, we do ethics in order to become good. But ethics professors are not moral exemplars, and I rather doubt that ethics classes make students better people. So what got lost?
A suggestion: perhaps the emphasis (insistence?) on “objectivity” has really hurt philosopher’s ability to influence people. Maybe it would be better if we really pushed our point of view in classes. Of course, this requires that we trust our students to “shop around” in the intellectual marketplace so they expose themselves to various points of view.
The initial trouble is that students tend to really dislike (judging by evaluations and comments) professors that do this. They hate feeling railroaded into a particular point of view. But there might be some merit to doing this.
Anecdote: When I was in college there were two profs – Dr. Gray in philosophy (an atheist) and Dr. Carroll in history (history of ideas, he basically taught Thomistic philosophy). Both pushed their “agendas” in class, but especially Dr. Carroll. My friends and I loved it. But more to the point, they really challenged you. Sure, both were probably affecting more certitude than they really had – but that was valuable. They absolutely forced you to take their position seriously. If they thought you were wrong or being sloppy, they really took you to the mat for it. They at least put the pressure on you to consider changing your views, if only because these really smart and impressive professors seemed so damn intent on you doing so. I should add, this was all done in a very loving, if firm, way (philosophical love). I was a relativist at the time, but I was convinced then, as I am now, that Dr. Carroll (who used to call me at home, take me out to dinner, etc) really wanted the best for me. He thought I was lost (I was) and he thought he could help me get found (he did).
I do a bit of this in my classes, but overall I work very hard to remain “objective” (in lower division classes I sometimes even try to keep my own views “secret”). But perhaps in trying so hard to be “fair and even-handed”, we handicap ourselves from actually being part of the discussion – from really saying something. To really say something, in this sense, requires affected confidence (some of which might be real, some not) as well as the balls to not give a shit if people hate you pressuring and pushing them. Again, not just pushing them by getting them to read and think about hard stuff (we all do that), but pressuring and pushing them into this or that position.
Really, what if we taught ethics like that?! Then it just might make us – and our students – better people!
This might be kind of fun at USU. Huenemann bashing religion and pushing materialism. Kleiner pushing back with his Heideggerized Thomism. I have occasionally (in all good fun) tried to stoke this with my students (making little joking potshots about the reductionistic falsehoods you learn in Huenemann’s courses). 🙂 But we could do more to build the rivalry. That we get along so well personally also communicates an important lesson about the philosophical life.
Kleiner’s question is interesting. I’d have to think about the full implications of that a lot more to make any real suggestion. On the one side I think embodying your own view is good because really you defend your own view much much better than any other view so at least you represent that one view well and it makes students encounter a real view held by a real person (it’s also the view you know best, that’s why it’s your view). On the other hand I think to teach Kant/Kierkegaard/Hume etc. well you need to embody their views fairly well and in some way your own view would then be a distraction. But you both really do have views and I don’t think that needs to be hidden at all. Charlie I think enjoys the discourse much more than representing his own view though.
I’m sure there is a middle road here.
I don’t think holding your own view strongly makes you a better person. To me it just means you’re not developing empathy.
(I mean “you” generally here)
I take some middle course. I work very hard in my classes to give each view as charitable a reading as I can (at least at first). I really want my students to learn to think with these great thinkers (as an initial step, I actually think this is more important than “thinking for yourself”).
I do not agree that being convicted by a certain belief makes you less empathetic. Part of a good training in philosophy (and being educated generally) is being able to think with others – even if you do not agree. In other words, you don’t have to be a wet noodle in order to be a respectful and empathetic partner in dialogue – empathy can flow from understanding other views even if not necessarily agreeing with them. I think this is why Huenemann and I are able to be pretty empathetic with each other. I think I understand where he is coming from, and I respect it (I think this goes the other way – though I am sure there are times when he just doesn’t see my ground!). I must confess, I do not always understand where Mike is coming from, and so I know my tone with him is not always as empathetic and charitable.
That’s an interesting way you’ve managed to structure your thinking about empathy.
I suspect you don’t approve?
I have to confess, I am pretty skeptical of people who claim to be skeptical – or here of people who claim to hold their beliefs “lightly”. Let’s compare the person who holds his views “strongly” and the person who holds them “lightly”. In practice, do they look any different? Not really. Both choose and act based on their views. Since action follows from belief (in what is good and worthwhile), it does not much matter how weakly or strongly you hold them. If you hold them strongly enough to motivate action (and almost everyone does), then there is very little practical difference here. It is very hard to be an active skeptic (nigh impossible).
I guess it has become an intellectual sin to be convicted of something, but I sure don’t think so. The stereotype is that dogmas (practically a dirty word, even though it just means an authoritative principle) somehow stunt intellectual growth and the development of community. I totally disagree. For my part, I am a very “institutional” thinker. But I really don’t think this makes me a stumbling block to dialogue. In fact, I think I am pretty good at “wearing other’s shoes” (empathetic thinking) and in all of my classes I wear the “mask” of each thinker while lecturing on them. So, without wanting to give myself too much credit, I think I am a pretty respectful, charitable, and empathetic dialogue partner. But I have convictions, and I am pretty darn sure (convinced in fact) that, say, materialism is false.
Nz knows this, by the way. This is why he insists on a (perhaps impossible) balance. While he thinks you should hold your beliefs lightly (be able to move from one to the next without regret), WHILE you hold each belief you have to hold it as if it were everything. Otherwise you are just a wet noodle. There is nothing noble about being wishy-washy. I agree with him on the wishy-washy point, I disagree with his view of truth and hence I don’t think I should move so quickly from one principle to another.
I think we all have convictions, by the way. I complain to Huenemann about this all the time. Huenemann does not seem to want too many convictions, but in trying not to hold any I think he is guilty of simply letting some slip in the back door (materialism and scientism). The danger is that one might begin to assume them almost without question (he once came close to admitting this to me).
Here is the 1.0/2.0 point. In order for philosophers to be a credible voice in the 2.0 debate, I think we need to be willing to interact forcefully. We need to be willing to have a voice – to actually say something! What makes philosophers different – and a valuable addition to the discussion – is that philosophers, unlike most everyone else, try to be really careful about what they say (think). They think about what they think before making a “though commitment” (however provisional that commitment might be). As a result, their thoughts (and action plans) have a higher likelihood of being consistent, coherent, and developed.
I don’t think you understand me at all so I don’t think you are speaking to me at all.
Sorry to have misunderstood you. We seem to talk past each other all the time, perhaps it is time to give up.
This just goes to show the shortfalls of online communication. Nothing can replace face to face discussions. After all, here you don’t even have a face! (is that icon a monkey?).
I too think that its important to defend one’s point of view with conviction. The bounds and usefulness of a theory can only be developed if one has some faith in what they believe. Yet it remains true that all beliefs/theories are speculative and it is also true that much harm comes from epistemic arrogance. If there is a balance that can be found it would seem to lie in something akin to temperance, in the acknowledgment that even as we argue passionately for that in which we believe we should perhaps be on our guard to avoid thinking that we are absolutely right, that our believe is how it actually is. “The map is not the territory.”
Rather it seems more prudent to suggest that this is what I think at the moment (and here is why)…
For ‘Is’ is a dangerous word, it really is 😛
It’s true there’s some terrible limitations with the medium. Usually I agree to an extent about what you’re arguing about but it usually doesn’t address anywhere near what I really think (which is why I think you must have a shallow view of whatever perspective it is you’re trying to characterize). Perhaps it’s still speaking to someone though.
I’m out of town so won’t write much for a bit.
I guess it is possible that I have a “shallow view” of humanism, but I really don’t think so. After all, I consider myself a Christian humanist. I think we just have a tough time getting on the same page. I’ll confess to not always being entirely clear on what you are saying, so it is not surprising that I fail to address what you think.
Anyway, we should meet sometime. We’ll have a better time e-conversing if we can get on the same page with some things. In the meantime, if it turns out that I just have shallow views of some things, then feel free to ignore me. (In case you can’t tell, I am pretty annoyed at you calling my view of humanism shallow).
I think it’s hard to offer a general rule about what attitude a teacher should adopt. It depends on the teacher and the subject. In Phil of Mind, I find it natural to let everyone know up front I’m a materialist, and the class enjoys arguing with me. But when I teach a history of phil survey, most of the time I have no opinion at all on the topics we’re discussing. My inner skeptic comes out. But I try to inhabit the various views and see what they’ve got going for them.
But at almost all times I can take issue with what Kleiner believes — which is fun for both of us! And I think students also enjoy seeing profs having at one another. An important lesson can be learned here: that friends can disagree and respect one another without falling into the ‘toleration’ sludge — that is, they can keep arguing and liking one another.
I think it’s great that you guys have a good demeanor towards each other (especially one that isn’t a stupid form of tolerance). Also great for the students. It’s also good to have a intellectual Catholic in USU’s philosophy department. Gotta love the irony in the majority/minority disjoint living in Logan. I always enjoy it when mormons talk about “the church” and assume you mean the LDS church. It’s also funny the contrast between a church that tries to avoid theology at all costs (so they can make room for new revelation?) and the one who has nailed down all sorts of theology (dealing with a ton of different heresies, etc.) over a few thousand years.
For me, if my inner Socrates comes to life I’ll get more into discussion with Kleiner again but for now my to write philosophy type stuff is limited so I’m going to stay focused on what I’m trying to accomplish. Also, I’m into most of Charlie’s projects so I’ll be engaging and (sometimes) promoting that material.
All of us discussing a particular text online might be fun. I’m reading everything I can find (in English) by Pierre Hadot at the moment.
Yes, I’m back online for a minute. A server went down and I’m waiting for the techs to bring it back up. This particular server has been up for 6 months and it just happens to go down today, when I’m out of town. Ashland, Oregon is beautiful.
I really like a lot of what Hadot has to say, really a brilliant guy. I think he has gotten an awful lot right about both the ancients and the philosophical life. ‘Philosophy as a way of life’ is a very useful corrective to excessively technical and academic philosophy.
I do think he has some things wrong. I think he errs in the great blame-game. I would argue that Christianity has been, on the whole, a good custodian of the ancient tradition – in particular the ancient marriage of theoria and praxis that Hadot is so nostalgic about. When I play the blame game, instead of blaming Christianity, I tend to ask why modern philosophers rejected the theory/practice synthesis that can be found in classical and Christian medieval philosophy.
If you have not read Nehemas, you should. He is up to a similar thing, without the (I think) misguided attack on Christianity.
So far I haven’t read anything in Hadot that seems to be attacking Christianity but I haven’t been looking for that. Only certain types of people read with an eye toward your “blame game” as a central prejudice.
Earlier my comment came from wondering just how you got to “wishy washy” from the earlier discussion. Completely baffling to me. (Hint: try to imagine a person who held a weak view of something but when you met him you wouldn’t describe him at all as wishy washy <– this type of thinking is to me the beginning of thinking) Even a weak view can be held deliberately.
We really are just so different. I think it’s one of those weird anomalies in the universe that we’ve hit upon. I’m at least aware of it now so I’m trying to be more careful (with a poor form of online self awareness 😉 ).
I don’t think the blame game is central to Hadot’s thought, and what I take to be his misplaced blame hardly prevents me from appreciating his work (I would consider myself a fan). But he engages in it some. For my part, I don’t think the blame game is all that productive, though I’ll confess to sometimes playing it. Anyway, I recall a few years back reading his “”What is Ancient Philosophy” and it is there. If memory serves, it is not just a passing point in the book, the blame Christianity argument for gutting ancient thought of its “spiritual significance” (making it a mere technical discipline) is given some degree of sustained treatment.
I think we get tripped up quite often just in terminological issues – I take you to mean x and I run with it, while you actually meant y. People that know each other better and interlocutors in a “live conversation” can more easily avoid these mix-ups. I’ve too oft have taken an adversarial tone with you, sorry for that.
That said, I suspect we do (just as Huenemann and I do) have very different ways of looking at the world. What can one say? There are many paths in the forest, some lead to clearings and other lead to thickets. (Holderlin) Absent any authoritative woodsman, we have to walk those paths on our own to see where they lead us.